Reactor

Traffic and the Human Condition

by An Xiao on December 13, 2013

Joel Kyack, "Superclogger" (via ghebaly.com)

Joel Kyack, “Superclogger” (via ghebaly.com)

A few years ago, China’s traffic jams of epic proportions started to make the news. Traffic on the ring roads in a city like Beijing is on par with, sometimes even worse than, that of Los Angeles’s 405 or New York’s BQE at rush hour. It seems to be an inevitable part of our lives, as this amazing compilation of traffic jams the world over reveals.

Angolan artist Binelde Hyrcan‘s ”Cambeck Voitures” (which I discoverd via studioafrica) is a short film of young boys playing in the sand and re-enacting traffic in Luanda, the country’s capital. According to the blog, “One can easily lose 2 to 4 hours inside the car, making this a big factor when organizing your everyday life.” The video follows a written script, but it’s still fascinating when performed by children on the beach, as if they were rehearsing the reality that they, too, will have to live in traffic.

The traffic of Southern California, of course, is nothing to sneeze at. I wrote last year about Chris Burden’s “Metropolis II,” a zipping wonderland with lots of cars but no backup. If that work is a fantasy of a traffic-free city, the freeway puppet show hosted by Joel Kyack and LAXArt was a fantasy within the traffic-clogged city. “Supperclogger” was a puppet show with words and songs that could be accessed on the radio, Angelenos’ major salvo for handling the hellish jams. It might be a dangerous distraction, but as the creators noted, cars at the height of rush-hour traffic move incredibly slowly.

Yangren Jie’s “14 traffic lights” installation (photo by Michael Evans, via Shanghaiist)

Yangren Jie’s “14 traffic lights” installation (photo by Michael Evans, via Shanghaiist)

And then there’s the insane traffic signal design in Yangren Jie (“Foreigner’s Street”), a theme park in Chongqing, China, a megalopolis in the southwest. Dubbed “14 traffic lights” and situated in a busy four-way intersection, it reads like a commentary on the human condition. As the world population urbanizes, traffic is becoming increasingly universal. No wonder there’s so much art out there to deal with it.

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  • TigerSoul2

    I have always referred to the ‘original axis of evil’ as these three geniuses: Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller and Robert Moses. Cars-petrol-interstates. It is always refreshing to witness the only folks with enough balls to challenge the powers in modern society, the artists, offering their cautionary tales about our condition. Well done.

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